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Our History

A beautiful history and a vibrant future!

 

Each Sunday you'll see the evidence of our Christian community everyday in our vibrant and passionate worship services that shares the good news of Jesus Christ to a broken world, in our enthusiastic desire to build spiritual friendships, and in our commitment to serve our neighbors both near and far.

We have a rich history dating back to before the Civil War. A history full of neighboring with Little Rock to create a city where children Thrive!

First United Methodist Church has a long and rich history. Its roots are in the first Methodist society formed in our city, in 1831. The first location, founded in 1833, was a small brick structure located between Main and Louisiana Streets on Cherry (now West Second) Street. Three years later, in 1836, the year that Arkansas achieved statehood, the church received the designation of “station” and its first full-time appointed pastor, William P. Ratcliffe. During the Civil War, this original location served as a hospital for two years. Then, in 1878, the building was sold.

The women of the church, with money earned by their various mission endeavors, bought one and one-half lots at the corner of Eighth and Center Streets, then deeded the property to the church trustees. A handsome brick structure was begun in 1879 and completed in 1880. Then, late in 1895, tragedy struck. Early on Sunday morning, December 15, the church burned to the ground. Only the records of the Board of Stewards and the silver communion service set were saved. Yet within hours, in an act reflecting their deep faith in themselves and in their God, the Board convened and voted to rebuild. By 1896, the oldest part of the present structure was completed. This structure originally served as chapel, offices and classrooms until the new sanctuary was completed in 1900.

By 1924, two floors of new classrooms were added, due to a phenomenal increase in membership. This section is now used as the kitchen and fellowship hall on the ground floor, and children’s classrooms on the second floor.

In 1931, centennial celebrations included many special services and social events as a grateful congregation looked back on its first one hundred years of service. The installation of a new Moller organ, a new lighting system and complete redecoration of the sanctuary also marked that significant anniversary year.

Between 1940 and 1960, the growth of the congregation stabilized at slightly more than 3,000 members. By 1951, when many churches were relocating westward in newer areas of the city, the First Methodist Church made a commitment to remain downtown. This decision resulted in enlargement of the building, including the addition of the education building and Riggs Chapel, as well as the purchase of much of the city block for future expansion.

In the 1970’s, the building was again enlarged, housing an activities building, which included a gymnasium, several new classrooms, the United Methodist Headquarters for the Arkansas Area and a Cokesbury Bookstore. In 1974, the church’s historical materials were collected and safely housed in the new Robert E.L. Bearden History Room.

In the early 1980’s, with the purchase of a large building at Eighth and Spring Streets, the church broadened its commitment to address community needs, when its daycare center expanded to become the Gertrude Remmel Butler Child Development Center. This Center serves more than 300 children in full-time and after-school childcare.

In this millennium, the church can look back at its remarkable history with joy and thanksgiving and can anticipate the future, trusting in the amazing grace of God through Jesus Christ to continue to guide and strengthen its ministry and service.